Table 1: Overview and comparison of different imaging methods in atherosclerotic plaque assessment (IMT: intima-media thickness; CVD: cardiovascular disease).

Imaging methodPlaque characterizationAdvantagesDisadvantagesPublished data from patients with SLE

Carotid ultrasoundIMT and plaque in carotid arteriesNo radiation
rapid-convenient
correlates with risk of future CVD
Interpretation is operator dependent. High frequency of plaque in Patients with SLE (clinical implications unclear)Yes [22, 23, 54, 55, 58]
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)Structure of myocardium
quantification of lipid content
No radiation
more sensitive than echo for myocardial change
Expensive
use of gadolinium limited in patients with renal impairment
motion artefacts.
Lower spatial resolution in vascular assessment.
Longer length of study time
Yes [2, 13, 18, 30, 3336]
Computed tomography (CT)Quantification of calcium, fibrous and lipid componentNoninvasive detection of vulnerable plaquesMotion artefacts.
Contraindicated in renal impairment
Low resolution
Yes [17, 41, 42]
Intravascular ultrasound-based methodsPlaque volume
Luminal and vessel dimensions
calcium content
Good penetration depth
complements coronary angiography
Invasive
lower spatial resolution
No
Positron emission tomography (PET)Plaque macrophage contentNot established for widespread clinical useYes [26, 27]
Optical CTPlaque microstructure (fibrous cap thickness measurement)High spatial resolutionInvasive
limited depth of penetration
No
Invasive MRPlaque morphology and structureNot established for widespread clinical useNo
Coronary angioscopyDirect plaque surface visualizationThree-dimensional view of plaqueSuperficial assessment of plaque.
Risk of coronary occlusion
No